Peak(s):  Ypsilon Mtn  -  13,514 feet
Chiquita, Mt  -  13,069 feet
Mt. Chapin - 12454
Date Posted:  10/19/2015
Date Climbed:   10/15/2015
Author:  Greenhouseguy
 Chapin/Chiquita/Ypsilon Out ‘n Back  

Ypsilon Mountain
13,514 Feet (246th Highest in Colorado)
Mt. Chiquita
13,069 Feet (Unranked)
Mt. Chapin
12,454 feet (1,030th Highest in Colorado)
Route: Chapin-Chiquita-Ypsilon (CCY)
Chapin Pass Trailhead - Elevation 11,038 Feet
Approximately 8 Miles Roundtrip
Approximately 3,700 Feet Elevation Gained
Class 2
October 15th, 2015
Partners: solo


Chapin/Chiquita/Ypsilon Out 'n Back


Mt. Chapin, Mt. Chiquita, and Ypsilon Mountain all lie in the northern part of Rocky Mountain National Park, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. The standard access to these mountains is via Old Fall River Road, which was the first road built for access to the park. The well-maintained dirt road switchbacks up to the Alpine Visitor Center at its junction with Trail Ridge Road. When Trail Ridge Road was completed in 1932, Old Fall River Road was relegated to secondary status. The road is in good enough shape for virtually any passenger car, but some of the switchbacks are tight enough to cause problems for long wheelbase trucks.

The Chapin Pass Trailhead on Old Fall River Road has no rest facilities, and only has enough parking spaces for about three cars. This, however, does not keep people from parking along the road. The trailhead is marked by an informational sign that would be difficult to miss.

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Sign at the Chapin Pass Trailhead

Chapin Pass and Mt. Chapin are named for Frederick H. Chapin, who was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club. Chapin hiked in the area in the 1886-88 time frame, and wrote a stirring account of his travels for the journal Appalachia. Chapin hiked these peaks with rancher William L. Hallet, art curator Benjamin Ives Gilman, George Thacher, surveyor and trail builder J. R. Edmands, and Dr. Charles E. Fay, professor of Romance Languages at Tufts University. And I thought that I had assembled an eclectic group of hiking partners! On their hike to these summits, the group had two encounters with a total of three cinnamon-colored black bears. Chapin also mentioned an earlier encounter with a grizzly on a nearby peak.

I had hardly gotten a good start before I encountered a directional sign beside the trail. This sign, at about 0.12 miles, marks the split with the Chapin Creek Trail. I took the right branch to head towards the summits and away from the basin to the north.

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Sign at the Chapin Creek Trail split

The trail switchbacked steeply up the slope for about half a mile. Along the way, I had good views of the Chapin Creek basin. I could hear an elk bugling down there, but I couldn't see it. A hiker that I met later on said that he saw a pair of moose beside this stretch of trail.

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Looking north into the Chapin Creek basin

At about 0.7 miles, there was another trail sign.

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Trail sign at 0.7 miles

The sign directs hikers to turn right for all three summits, but this may not be the direction that all hikers want to take. The trail to the left stays lower, bypasses Mt. Chapin, and heads towards the Chapin/Chiquita saddle. If Mt. Chapin is on the itinerary, it is better to take the right branch.

The right branch climbs almost imperceptibly up Mt. Chapin's north flanks. It was relatively easy going on an obvious trail.

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Contouring along Mt. Chapin's north flanks

The route description on 14ers.com incorrectly states that there is no formal trail to Mt. Chapin's summit. I just picked a spot due south of the summit and headed up rocky tundra.

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Rocky tundra on Mt. Chapin's north slopes

I missed the true summit, and ambled over a few yards to the high point. Mt. Chapin has a huge summit area that would be an excellent spot to lounge in the summer. It may only be a twelver, but the views of the heart of RMNP are hard to beat. Mt. Chapin lies at the southern tip of the Mummy Range, which earned its name because it allegedly resembles a sleeping mummy. Mt. Chapin is the mummy's head. It was windy and well below freezing so I took a minute to layer up.

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Looking towards Mt. Chapin's high point

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Mt. Chiquita and Ypsilon Mountain viewed from Mt. Chapin

As I started down toward the Chapin/Chiquita saddle, I noticed a well-traveled trail; I correctly assumed that it would take me down to the saddle. If I had stayed on the main trail for just a few more yards, I could have taken this trail instead of taking the Class 2 route up Chapin's northern slope. Mt. Chapin's summit trail branches from the main trail at about the 1.5 mile mark

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Trail down to the Chapin/Chiquita saddle

The lower trail mentioned earlier in this report rejoins the main trail at the 12,000-foot Chapin/Chiquita saddle. This saddle is about 1.75 miles from the trailhead. The trail above the saddle is easy to follow through the grassy tundra.

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Smooth sailing through the grassy tundra on Mt. Chiquita's lower slopes

The tundra gradually faded into talus, but the route was still easy enough to follow. There were a few cairns along the route, but they weren't really necessary.

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Finding the route through the talus on Mt. Chiquita

I topped out on Mt. Chiquita at about 2.6 miles from the trailhead. Mt. Chiquita was also an exceptional summit. There is probably no better place from which to view the complicated terrain on Ypsilon Mountain's southeast face. Enos Mills reportedly named Mt. Chiquita after the Uncompahgre Ute Indian Chief Ouray's wife, whose name was actually Chipeta. Such is life. I caught up with a hiker named Jason on the summit, and he was kind enough to snap a summit shot for me.

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Mt. Chiquits'a summit, with Ypsilon Mountain in the background

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Ypsilon Mountain's southeast face, viewed from Mt. Chiquita

Jason was not continuing on to Ypsilon Mountain, so I had the route to myself for the time being. There was not much of a trail down to the Chiquita/Ypsilon saddle, so I just picked the easiest line and stuck with it. Once I reached the saddle at the three-mile mark, I could see a rudimentary trail up Ypsilon's southwest slope.

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The trail on Ypsilon Mountain's southwest slope

It was hardly worth the effort to attempt to follow the trail on Ypsilon's southwest slope; I simply followed the contour of the cirque. The cirque was carved by the Fall River Glacier, which existed during the most recent period of glaciation. The glacier carved a beautiful and very deep valley which is home to several scenic lakes. Two of these lakes are called the Spectacle Lakes, because the pair vaguely resemble a pair of eyeglasses when viewed from above. Rocky Mountain National Park superintendent Roger Toll named the lakes in 1922.

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Following the edge of the cirque to Ypsilon Mountain's summit

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Looking down into the abyss. The lower Spectacle Lake is in the top center of the image, with Blitzen Ridge and spires known as The Four Aces in the upper left

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Ypsilon Mountain's rugged southeast face

After teetering over the edge of the cirque to peer down Ypsilon's famous couloirs, I finally reached the summit. Frederick H. Chapin's wife named the mountain for the two prominent snow-filled couloirs which meet in the form of a huge "Y" on the southeast face. Calling it Y Mountain would not have been pretentious enough for Mrs. Chapin, so she used the Greek form of the letter and called it Ypsilon. Ypsilon Mountain's summit offers unsurpassed views of the Mummy Range, the Never Summer Mountains, and Wyoming's Medicine Bow Mountains.

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Wind shelter on Ypsilon Mountain's summit, with Fairchild Mountain in the background

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A better view of Fairchild Mountain

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Longs Peak viewed from Ypsilon Mountain's summit

With so much scenery to take in, I was in no hurry to head back. Another hiker joined me on the summit, and we chatted for a few minutes. It's relatively uncommon to run into other hikers on thirteeners, but these peaks see a bit more traffic because they're located in a national park. As I headed back down to the Ypsilon/Chiquita saddle, I took the opportunity to get one more look down the north branch of the Y Couloir.

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Looking down the north branch of the Y Couloir

Along the way, I noticed that Mt. Chiquita has quite a bit of exposure on its northeast face.

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Heading back down towards Mt. Chiquita

Mt. Chiquita was lovely, but I didn't feel the need to visit its summit again so soon. When I reached the Ypsilon/Chiquita saddle, it was obvious that I could bypass it by contouring along its northwest slope. As I got closer, I could even see a faint trail through the tundra. It was a simple traverse, but slightly longer than I had anticipated. I attempted to gain and lose as little elevation as possible, and I eventually reached the trail again on the mountain's southwest side.

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Bypassing Mt. Chiquita on the return

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Returning to the trail on Mt. Chiquita's southwest slope

I followed the trail back to the Chiquita/Chapin saddle, where a long stretch of level trail greeted me. It was still 1.75 miles back to the Jeep, but the hardest part of the hike was behind me at this point.

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At the Chiquita/Chapin saddle, with the trail stretching into the distance along Mt. Chapin's north slope

It was a few minutes after noon and I was uncomfortably hot in my softshell, but there was still frost on the rocks on Chapin's shady north side. I found myself watching my step instead of watching the scenery.

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Sidehilling on Mt. Chapin's north slope

I didn't expect to see any wildflowers this late in the season, but one lone old man of the mountain was still hanging in there. This plant lives for 12-15 years without blooming, then dies after it blooms. The flowers usually face eastwards.

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The familiar old man of the mountain, Hymenoxys grandiflora

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Crossing the foot bridge over a seasonal creek

Back in the subalpine zone, one of the dominant understory plants was the grouse whortleberry, (Vaccinium scoparium). As the name indicates, grouse utilize the plant's berries for food. The specific epithet scoparium is Latin for broom; this refers to the plant's dense broom-like branches.

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Grouse whortleberry (Vaccinium scoparium) exploiting the shade and moisture afforded by a downed tree

I encountered several hikers on or near the summits and dozens more on the lower part of the trail, so this hike wasn't really about solitude. The hike was entirely easy Class 1/Class 2, so most of my hikes are more physically challenging. I would ordinarily object to the park's $20 daily admission fee, if I had actually paid it (it pays to arrive early before they man the gates. Better yet, buy an annual pass!). What I gained from this hike was the enjoyment of majestic views that have changed little since the legendary Enos Mills fought for their preservation more than 100 years ago.

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GPS track of the CCY out and back hike



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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 Comments or Questions
Cookiehiker

Great report!
10/20/2015 07:28
I look forward to hiking these as well! Thanks for the info!!


Brian Thomas

"It may only be a twelver"
10/20/2015 09:44
You never apologize for that. Never.


Jay521

I agree with Noel
10/20/2015 09:51
As usual, a fine report, Brian!



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